One Mutant "Artist" (matter manipulator w/ omega level sarcasm)
All The Fandoms. All the funnies. All the things!
friends are constantly coming to me for advice about their relationships and love lives and i’m just
Diggle and Felicity – “Delicity” as it were – is the most natural ship on Arrow. They’re the two characters who spend the most time together. In fact they’re frequently alone together in the secret Arrow lair, whilst Oliver is out doing the hero thing. The fanfiction practically writes itself! Plus they have a natural on-screen chemistry. Their relationship is comfortable, trusting and flirtatious. And it makes sense to ship the two sidekicks with each other and leave Broody McManpain to pine over his inability to let anyone in emotionally.
But fandom doesn’t ship Delicity. It ships Olicity with the burning urgency of a thousand fiery suns, but Delicity? Nothing. Zip. Tumbleweeds.
This is bizarre to me. It’s so bizarre that I’m starting to wonder if the rest of fandom is watching a different show. Remember when Diggle started teaching Felicity self-defence? Remember when Oliver got shot and they bonded over personal stories? Am I the only person who watched Diggle rescue Felicity from a security guard and heard her call him her “knight in shining armour”? Anyone? What makes it all the more mystifying is that Felicity and Oliver don’t really have much of a connection beyond Felicity having a really obvious crush on him. If anything, Oliver is intensely patronising towards Felicity. Literally patronising, in fact – he treats her like a father treats a daughter – over-protective, controlling, stern yet somewhat detached.
The difference between Olicity and Delicty is exemplified by the episodes where Felicity finds out that Oliver is the hood and is brought into Team Arrow. Diggle asks Oliver if he knows what he’s doing, to which Oliver replies that he’ll protect Felicity. It’s paternalistic and domineering. Diggle, meanwhile, teaches Felicity self-defence because he’ll “sleep a lot easier” knowing she can “handle herself”. See the difference? It’s protective but respectful. Oliver’s solution is to treat Felicity like an asset that needs to be protected – by him, of course. Diggle’s solution is to empower Felicity to protect herself. But fandom loves Olicity. Apparently being possessive and overbearing is more romantic than being respectful and helpful. Never mind the fact that Oliver is often rude to Felicity and pushes her away.
I’d ask why this is, but I already know the answer. It’s because of race. Fandom will ship the blonde, quirky Felicity with Oliver, they’ll ship her with Tommy Merlyn, they’ll ship her with characters she’s never met. But they won’t ship her with a black guy. Fandom sees a black man and doesn’t see a romantic prospect for the white, blonde female lead. They see a non-sexual, non-romantic character who can never be anything to her other than a brother.
Think I’m overreaching? Let’s look at another show with a relateable female character caught between two potential love interests. The Vampire Diaries airs on the CW (like Arrow) and, like Arrow, features a young female character (Elena Gilbert) who shares a romantic tension with two attractive male leads (Damon and Stefan Salvatore). Like Arrow, the show is targeted at the teen/young adult demographic and (like Arrow) there’s potential to ship either one of the male leads with Elena Gilbert. The Vampire Diaries fandom is engaged in a Delena vs. Stelena shipwar so intense it’s impossible to join the fandom without also pledging allegiance to one of the two main ships. The bitter rivalry frequently turns nasty, and if you search online for Stelena and Delena you will find plenty of fan works extolling the virtues of both and deriding the other as flawed, pathetic or delusional.
Why such a huge difference in fan reaction? Well, the only significant difference is that both the male leads in The Vampire Diaries are conventionally attractive white dudes. It’s not a stretch to say that if Diggle was white, Arrow fandom would be embroiled in a Delicity vs. Olicity shipwar right now. But Diggle is black, so fandom is all Olicity all the time with the occasional musing on why Delicity isn’t a bigger ship.
This is racism. Sure, it’s not violent racism, and maybe it’s mild racism compared to dropping racial slurs and hating on a character just because they’re black. But it’s still racism. Fandom as a whole sees a black character and a white character with obvious onscreen chemistry and serious ship potential… and completely ignores it. It’s like Diggle doesn’t even exist on the romantic landscape.
I know fandom will dispute this. Fandom is full of people who will swear up and down they’re not racist, who maybe even like Diggle, who enjoy watching him work with Felicity and like their interactions. Everyone has a really good reason for not shipping Delicity, ranging from “He’s more like a brother to her!” through “I like him with Carly” and ending up at “Well, there’s a pretty big age gap!” This is bogus, because (a) fandom has no problem at all shipping characters who are actual siblings, so the mere fact that the Delicity relationship feels brother/sistery should not be enough to deter people from shipping it; (b) fandom is willing to completely ignore established, canonical relationships (and even established, canonical sexual orientations) to ship their favourite pairing, so the fact that Diggle has a girlfriend is irrelevant to why people don’t ship Delicity; and (c) fandom will happily ship teenage girls with centuries-old vampires so you can’t pull the ‘age gap’ card.
If you look at Diggle and Felicity and you don’t see any romantic potential there, ask yourself why that is. Fandom as a whole could do with taking a good, long look at Delicity and thinking hard about why so many fans simply gloss right over it. If you don’t see a black character as a potential romantic partner, then you’re not seeing them as a whole, complete human. Fandom demotes Diggle to platonic, non-sexual relationship status because it doesn’t want to deal with a black guy as a romantic and sexual being. Well, he is. He could date Felicity. It would be cute, actually – and fun, and romantic, and make the show more interesting.
As it stands, Olicity is the ship that launched a thousand fangirls – which I would still find problematic even if the whole Delicity business wasn’t an issue. Olicity is not a healthy ship. The way Oliver treats Felicity is not romantic or sweet – it’s condescending. Their whole relationship is a manifestation of outdated, patriarchal attitudes. He is the Mighty Protector. She is the Helpless Damsel. They do not meet as equals because Oliver puts himself above her, assuming the role of guardian rather than friend or companion. I’m not surprised that fandom romanticises their relationship, but I am disappointed and annoyed."
telepath more like telepathetic
this sounds like something Magneto would say before high fiving Mystique
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